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Sep 02, 2006

Working It Up

(Click for full legion of love)

Although liberal bloggers and others are doing a masterful job of deconstructing the White House's lunatic comparison of fascism to Islamic terrorism, they may be missing the larger political intent.  The Administration is not really interested in creating an intellectual argument so much as linking, then exploiting a rich set of emotional associations.

I was interested in Digby's point about how quickly the Administration was able to shift the narrative from Katrina to 9/11.  Yes, because it's the only car in Karl's garage.  And because it's "early" yet (the 9/11 anniversary still being nine days off), I thought I'd highlight some of the groundwork being laid.

The key to the strategy -- particularly "with the sound off" -- is the stirring of the emotional pot.  As a well-worn Rovian device, the left can't help but contribute by latching onto the outlandish arguments and potentiating the buzz.  (I don't mean to say they shouldn't.  Part of cleverness involves the fact there's no way not to confront the so-called intellectual argument.)

Overall however, when you find the MSM and the White House focusing on the same affective devices, high suspicion is called for.  The visual emphasis from both quarters -- after Bush's strategically paranoid speech at the American Legion Convention -- was how emotive Bush was.

The White House website was not so heavy-handed as to feature this dewy-eyed shot that AFP spread around.  (I like this one also.  Sorry about the size.)  The more sublte "in house" shot had Bush looking ever so wistful.  (At the same time, it was about the largest pic of Bush they've ever ran.  Part of the "turn around" they're looking for is to somehow restore Bush to a more respectable size.)

The most illuminating shot they ran yesterday, however, is the one above.  The "revival meeting" narrative is as simple as it is blindingly redundant:  We're facing the enemy of a lifetime.  We've got to pull together.  The world hangs in the balance.  Are you peace-lovin?  Are you country-lovin?  Are you feelin' it?

And yes, this shot beats the pants off of it's Clinton-Lewinsky cousin for uncomplicated seduction.  Exploiting Bush's shield of religiosity, all's fair in love of war.

(image 1: Eric Draper/White House.  August  31, 2006. Salt Lake City.  Linked image1:  Tim Sloan/AFP.  August  31, 2006. Salt Lake City.  Linked image 2: Jim Young/Reuters. August  31, 2006. Salt Lake City.)


Now that's what I would call a Robert E. Lee reception!

Interesting, how uninvolved, almost stand offish, the other spectators are. This shot was almost certainly staged.

Chad is right about the rest of the crowd--except the red-haired woman just to the left, with her hand to her bosom. The two that Bush is embracing and the red-haired woman gaze at Bush in rapture. Within the grouphug, the one on the left is ready for a smooch. The blonde on the right is touching him a little hesitantly but leans in attentively: She's on the same wavelength. I notice that the plain, plump woman in the lower left corner serves as flag proxy but isn't getting any action.

Can we read this photo-op as an "all the stylish ladies are swoony over our manly CIC" appeal to the soccer moms?

Meanwhile, the men in uniform look downright suspicious.

Could the caption be: "Which one of you is my real Monica?"

Sorry, obvious I know, but the other picture immediately came into my mind. Let's hope one day this photo becomes Mr Bush's iconic booboo (or is it boobsboob?

He's grabbed the two women in kind of an awkward way. He's got one arm around each of their necks; the woman on the left seems determined to get his undivided attention and is hugging him with both arms, while the woman on the right has one arm around him. You can't help but be reminded of the Clinton-Lewinsky encounters on the rope line, though.

I'm curious about the yellow pieces of paper clutched by the two women on the left. They seem to want them to be seen, but there's a lot of small print on them, so it's not something he's supposed to read. Do they identify them as people that Bush should greet? Like relatives of military personnel killed in action or something?

What's interesting to me is that third hand on Bush's lower back, belonging to someone we can't see. I don't think it belongs to the Sheryl Crow look-alike on the left (unless Sheryl has one freakishly long arm and two different maincures).

Woops, time for more coffee: "manicures."

As others have picked up, interesting how he's hugging the 2 cuties and super patriot mom at his side is left holding the flag...

They are many. Their name is Legion and they are white. Except for the lady in the American flag blouse, they have Katherine Harris hair and Stepford expressions. Is there a Stepford in Georgia? Too bad the one embracing him fully didn't do so before the October 2004 debate. Then we might have an answer.

Are the yellow slips of paper Bush's talking points that he dropped and these people courteoulsy picked up for him?

Is he hugging or staggering?

Look in my eyes...and tell me you love me.

A facist love-in? Or maybe the blond on the left is a plant, feeling for The Decider's hidden transmitting device?

Re Lewinsky comparison: I think that, in the sack, Bush's secret desire would be to have his tush powdered, then he'd head for the breast.

Sorry, I've even disgusted myself here.

WHAT is going on here?!! I can't imagine hugging ANY president like that......with BOTH if they hadn't seen each just ages? What is wrong with these people?

And The Bag's links.....the tears? Does he stick raw onion in his mouth to get that effect? I do like the one with the halo of lights over his head. I'll bet that plays big in the south with his white christianist base. And haven't we seen similar shots before? Maybe his cameraman worships him.

The good news out of red-state Utah is ballistic-blue Mayor Rocky Anderson's fiery speech to thousands during Bush's love-in with the American Legion babes. He condemned Bush directly and bluntly, as well as Rice and Rumsfeld (who were also at the AL convention in SLC), Cheney, Powell, our "complacent, complicit" Congress, and finally the news media for the "unnecessary," "tragic," "immoral, illegal" war in Iraq. He called Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president," his presidency "the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure," and an "oppressive, inhumane regime." But he didn't just use adjectives, he used actual facts and cited quotes from the administration itself to back up his accusations.

Among the coinages and quotes from the speech you will hear again and again is this one: "Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism."

Video of the speech (worth watching as he's a good orator):

Transcript of the speech:

Select Internet buzz:

> rtbg, your "unless Sheryl has one freakishly long arm" comment had me cracking up. It does look really strange, like a fish-eye lens or sometin'. The person in the upper-right, is distorted.

If the caption read this was Pat Robertson, I would believe it without looking twice.

"...they are all white..."
Even in the background, I can't identify anyone who is not ostensibly white. This sure ain't a Rainbow America.

What's with the other main foreground male standing with crossed hands and at least half closed eyes?

You have brilliantly defined the nature of Bush propaganda:

"The Administration is not really interested in creating an intellectual argument so much as linking, then exploiting a rich set of emotional associations."

And of course, as you point out, it does this visually -- rather than orally (or, if you'll allow, intellectually, as words require more "logic" than images).

A long time ago, I read Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" (about the impact of TV). I don't have the book anymore, but I remember him saying that the first advertisements in American newspapers (in the 18th century, I guess) simply offered the necessary information - e.g., cobbler fixes shoes at this address. Over time, the nature of advertising changed until we had TV commercials that barely mentioned the product, but simply attempted to build that emotional reaction that Coke (or McDonalds or whatever) = happiness.

So Rove and company are simply creating advertising; it's obvious that they don't care about the substance. The only thing that matters is the message, and anyone who worries about reality is old-fashioned. They still think that if they can just find the right PR, they'll be successful - whether it's in the U.S. or the Middle East or anywhere else.

I read yesterday that they're putting out a $20 million contract for someone to monitor and analyze news items about Iraq, and produce summary reports telling them what kind of news is being reported where, and whether it has a positive or negative spin. They've got nothing better to do with $20 million?

ummabdulla said: "I read yesterday that they're putting out a $20 million contract for someone to monitor and analyze news items about Iraq, and produce summary reports telling them what kind of news is being reported where, and whether it has a positive or negative spin."

Nice work if you can get it, right? We do that at BAGnewsNotes for free.

Of course the president's antics (I mean, speeches) are all designed to whip up the faithful to vote for the Republican midterm candidates/incumbents. It's worth noting, however, that Bush's general job approval ratings are the lowest *ever.* If you need cheering up, check out this chart that plots various poll results (Gallup, Zogby, AP/Ipsos, Time, Harris, etc.) over a 2004-2006 timespan. At the 2004 presidential election, Bush's approval rating hovered around 50 percent, and as the midterm elections approach, Bush's approval rating hovers around 35 percent — *lower,* even, than in the months following Katrina. And ever since a temporary "optimistic" peak in January 2006, the numbers have remained below 40 percent (except for Gallup and Fox, big surprise). That's because Bush has not delivered *any* improvements on any front since his reelection two years ago (and in fact, things have clearly gotten worse, at home and in Iraq). I think the people who voted for Bush in 2004 to clean up the mess he made in Iraq are going to register their unhappiness with Republicans in November.

This American Legion pep rally photo shows us what 35 percent of the population looks like. It's not an image of the majority in this country. And it's the first time in Bush's presidency that he's been so *solidly* in the minority. Gives a new meaning to his tired mantra, "You're either with us or against us; you're either with us or you're with the terrorists."

I'm very interested in the country's response to the 9/11 anniversary. People will certainly pay tribute, but unless Donald Rumsfeld personally captures Osama bin Laden, I don't think Americans are going to respond to the 9/11 terrorism chain-jerk hype as they once did. Just a prediction.

"The Administration is not really interested in creating an intellectual argument so much as linking, then exploiting a rich set of emotional associations."

I've been doing some reading in the area of "moral psychology" recently. The early work in this area assumed that people reasoned about moral dilemmas and that reasoning led to moral action, but more recent work in this area emphasizes moral intutition. It is a form of emotional thinking: We make fast, automatic, unconscious evaluations of what we see or experience. After that, we come up with conscious justifications for what we have decided.

The Republicans have been very clever at providing grist for emotional thinking: fear, belonging, love, power, safety. This picture, for example, is about safety in numbers, protection: The great father in Washington will take care of us. Emotional thinking also explains the weird (post-hoc) moral arguments that conservatives make for Republican policies: Democrats are weak on defense. Democrats will take your money and give it to undeserving others. Saddam Hussein was evil.

rtbag, I hope your prediction (that Americans are not going to respond to the 9/11 terrorism chain-jerk hype as they once did) is right. September in an election year has arrived and Bushco is ready to roll out their new product. The drumbeats to attack Iran have started. Oil prices are plummeting.

Like the other posters have noted, the feeling that "we're all in this together" only applies to white native-born Americans (preferably Christian), as this photo shows. This is the White House strategy for the fall elections--calling on their white base to "come together" against those people, i.e., uppity non-whites, liberals, feminists, gays, "islamic fascists" (the latest Administration smear of choice)--the list goes on. I wonder how many of the gullible whites the President is hugging actually even have health care?

Is Rove suddenly in the movie business? I hear the CBS movie this weekend is all about blaming Clinton for 9/11. I think that's one I can miss. But I wonder what the DLC will have to say. That is if they still have tongues.

PTate in MN's post about moral psychology is interesting. I agree that is what the rep. followers are doing. You can detect it when they call in to AAR and try to argue. It rapidly becomes obvious that there is no thinking going on. That's exactly what's behind the "Islamo-fascist" term. If fascism is rule by corporatocracy, then by definition, Islamo-fascism is an oxymoron. But we will hear it with nauseating frequency in the next two-plus months.

marysz said " I wonder how many of the gullible whites the President is hugging actually even have health care?" They all do because they are, or are married to, the military; just about the only group that has healthcare these days......except for the ones still fighting, of course.

It hasn't been mentioned yet here, but (since TheBag gave us the day off) I'm wondering what you all make of the new "American" al-Queda guy. I heard him on tape and it sounds like he has a slight accent that is not American. Anybody else notice that?

I still think that Gdub and OBL are pretty much working hand in hand to keep the reps. in office. See what happens when you lie to the people? They quit believing what you say.

The image is meant to convey the fatherly Bush being embraced by the masses. Specifically, females. In the pre-Clinton days, the GOP was saddled with the white male label. Since then, they learned to make the camera pan over "mixed" people, and fill their convention with same. Every chance Bush gets, he hugs a black (usually female) person on camera. But white women will do. Here, in the photo, again there are women. Had Bush been shaking hands with a sea of white male faces, the message would be very different. So yes, this is contrived. The cameras go off exactly when desired, and the white house distributes these photos. There are very little spontaneous, free shots by other media.

Getting back to the picture - I see a glaring difference between the people he is hugging at the blue fence, and the rest. The two ladies to the left do not have the choice spot. They seem more average than the women who are actually being embraced. I see a chubby woman with glasses wearing a plain white blouse with patriotic flag symbols, and a woman in olive drab. The stars of the photo, in contrast, seem like professional, serious women. Perfect make-up, good hair, blue power-suits, and little jewelry. The woman on the left is also very intense and has her hand closed - pressed firmly against Bush's back.

So, this does not seem like the embrace of two average patriot moms. They are core Republicans, and they mean business. The woman on the left intrigues me. She owns the closed hand on the back. It is obviously a supportive embrace. She seems as much "in charge" as the President in this photo. If not for the President's height advantage, she would actually be the central figure. The closed hand could suggest a military background, or it could just be evidence of a strong, directive embrace. These women are holding him up, not the other way around.

So in this photo Bush is certainly not comforting anyone. He is being embraced by his hard core base. "We know your poll numbers are down George, but keep a stiff upper lip."

That's what I see.

I think the 'dewy eyed' shot has nothing to do with tears, it looks like he's been drinking again.

Just a couple of white, upper middle class "chicks" thanking W for the tax cuts. other words - his female base....

Ummm, if I was hugged like that woman on the left was hugging Bush, with that look on her face, I'd conclude that she was interested in more than a kiss. A lot more.

She's got both arms all the way around him, and is making direct eye contact, with "that" look on her face.

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